Reviews – New movies opening August 30th 2013

We review this week’s new cinema releases, including THE WAY WAY BACK and PAIN & GAIN

THE WAY WAY BACK (USA/12A/103mins)
Directed by Jim Rash & Nat Faxon. Starring Sam Rockwell, Toni Collette, Steve Carrell, Liam James, AnnaSophia Robb.
Duncan (Liam James) is a shy 14 year old brought on holiday with his mother (Toni Collette), her boyfriend (Steve Carrell) and his daughter, Steph (Zoe Levin). Neither a child nor an adult, Duncan is desperate to find a place where he belongs, and makes an unexpected friend in the manager of a water park, Owen (Sam Rockwell).
Nat Faxon and Jim Rash – writer and directors of The Way Way Back – previously brought us the gorgeous and moving The Descendants, for which they won the Best Screenplay Oscar. The good news is that with The Way Way Back, they have done it again.
The Way Way Back could easily have turned into a drama about the relationship between the adults in the film, or indeed Duncan finding his first love, but by focusing instead on a young man seeking the father figure he has lost and the friendship he needs, the darker plotlines are allowed to revolve around Duncan, but the centre of the story is a gentle coming of age tale.
Liam James is endearing and relatable as Duncan, but the real hero of the piece is man-child Owen, played by Sam Rockwell. Rockwell throws himself into the role and is not only a character that people in the film are drawn to, but also is the character around which the film revolves. Rockwell is hilariously funny, creating bits and elaborate lies to keep the younger patrons of the water park entertained, but he is also warm and sweet. The relationship between Owen and Duncan is the focus of the film, and it is through this friendship that Duncan gets to triumph over his awkwardness and his isolation.
THE VERDICT: The world of the film is filled with people we all know; Rockwell takes the role of older friend and mentor whose relationships with people his own age are shaky, but who gives great advice to teenagers, Toni Collette as Pam is the mother who doesn’t know whether to let her child go or keep him under her wing as she struggles to come to grips with her own life, the interloper – in this case, Steve Carrell as Trent – who struggles to create a bond with Duncan, Allison Janney as the hilarious drunken neighbour… All of these characters combine to round out Duncan’s world, and not only do they sharpen the character’s view of life, but they help him to realise that not everything is black and white.
Rash and Naxon have created a film that is filled with warmth, and tinted with nostalgia. The crummy water park helps to reinforce the notion that this film could take place in any of our childhoods, as do the familiar characters and the warmth of the world created. The strongest point of the film is Rockwell’s performance as Owen, but this would not have worked if the supporting cast were not willing to allow him to take to the fore. This is Duncan’s story and we see Owen through his eyes, as a role model and friend. Just as George Clooney held The Descendants together, Rockwell does the same here. The film feels personal and cathartic for the creative duo, and both take on great acting roles within the film.
The Way Way Back is a warm, moving and relatable film about that one summer that changes your teenage life. Liam James does a beautiful job as a young teenager struggling to find his confidence and where he belongs in the world, and Rockwell has rarely been better as the young man’s inspiration and friend. Rash and Naxon have tinted the film with nostalgia, a move that works strongly in their favour, leaving The Way Way Back feeling like an cosy indie hug from your childhood.
Review by Brogen Hayes

PAIN & GAIN (USA/16/129mins)
Directed by Michael Bay. Starring Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub, Ed Harris, Rob Dorddry, Bar Paly, Rebel Wilson, Ken Jeong.
THE PLOT: Miami, and bodybuilder Daniel (Wahlberg) has had enough of helping the rich and fat get into shape at the Sun Gym. Being a bodybuilder running more on steroids than smarts, Dan reckons a little kidnapping will set him on the road to success, setting his sights on loaded gangster Victor Kershaw (Shalhoub), and enlisting two fellow meatballs to carry out his money-spinning plan. The fact that gym jockey Adrian (Mackie) and Paul (Johnson) are both lacking somewhat when it comes to matters above the bulging neck doesn’t appear to bother Dan. Then again, Dan is also lacking somewhat when it comes to matters above the bulging neck. As is just about everyone else in their scuzzy world, it turns out, with the resilient Kershaw proving to be the only one with anything resembling a backbone.
THE VERDICT: According to Michael Bay, this true-life comedy caper is his attempt at keeping it real. For a change. And that meant keeping it small. Thanks to back-end deals with the stars, Pain & Gain is $25m small – which would normally just about cover the black M&Ms and battered hookers on your traditional Bay production.
This little low-budget offering is still over two hours long, of course. And very, very loud. It’s also, as with pretty much all of Bay’s films, almost defiantly disappointing. The master of overkill simply can’t do underplay, it seems, the tanned behemoth’s attempt at downsizing turning out to be yet another seemingly endless strobe-light trailer. Not even Pegg and Frost will find much to love and fetishize over here, Pain & Gain being decidedly more Jersey Shore than Bad Boys. Even if the omnipresent Wahlberg and the equally likeable (and busy) Johnson are a dab hand at sending their macho selves up, and the cast is riddled with Hollywood’s current comedy oddballs, Pain & Gain is never funny enough to forgive all the other shortcomings.
Review by Paul Byrne

Directed by Morgan Spurlock. Starring Liam Payne, Harry Styles, Zayn Malik, Niall Horan, Louis Tomlinson, Jon Shone, Dan Richards, Sandy Beales, Josh Devine.
They may have come third in The X Factor back in 2010, but the little girls are a far more powerful force than any D-list celebrity judging panel, and so it is that Brit boy band One Direction are the new Backstreet Boys. Or the Really New Kids On The Block. With their star still burning pretty damn bright, the band are captured here on their recent world tour, the cameras joining them for 100 dates that took them from North America to Australia, Asia and Europe, and then back again. For the fans, the real attraction is the backstage footage. Which reveals very little. If not slightly less than very little. Then again, 1D are far closer to The Monkees than they are to The Beatles…
Proving that any documentary filmmaker is really only ever as interesting as his chosen subject, Morgan Spurlock delivers a surprisingly straight account of a pop band on tour here. Heck, the ginger gatecrasher doesn’t even appear once on screen.
Then again, Spurlock’s breakthrough with Super Size Me in 2004 should have been a warning. Specialising in high concept, easy sell documentaries (chasing Bin Laden; chasing product placements), Spurlock is all about the stunt, not the content, and he’s actually a natural fit for this standard-issue flavour-of-the-month concert tour film. One Direction gives the man five certifiable stunts to sell his film with. Unfortunately, it’s not a particularly exciting film, despite all the hysteria.
The sort of bland offering that makes Truth Or Dare look like Don’t Look Back, this hit-and-run slice of merchandising will be sitting pretty in car boot sales within the year. If it isn’t already, of course. The band are largely inoffensive, it has to be said.
Review by Paul Byrne